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Tiverton, animal sanctuary at odds over dog nearly euthanized

July 11, 2023

By Ted Hayes

Cotta said euthanasia, popular or not, was in town's best interest; West Place disagrees

Patty, a mixed breed found on Seapowet Avenue in late June, is now awaiting a new forever home at the Potter League for Animals in Middletown. RICHARD W. DIONNE JR.

An abandoned dog that was close to being euthanized at the Town of Tiverton's behest is instead undergoing veterinary care and awaiting her forever home at the Potter League For Animals in Middletown, in a case that has driven a kennel-sized wedge between the West Place Animal Sanctuary and the Town of Tiverton.

The dog, an eight- or nine-year-old mixed breed female with abdominal tumors, was found abandoned on Seapowet Avenue on Friday, June 23. As was protocol before its contract with the town expired on Saturday, July 1, the unnamed dog, later named Patty, was retrieved by Tiverton Animal Control Officer Jennifer Black and dropped off at West Place.

Under its former $28,000 per year contract, West Place was required to provide kennel lodging for strays and other animals brought in by the town, but had no authority to provide medical care or adopt out animals on its own. Under the arrangement, it was ultimately the town’s responsibility to determine the next step for animals temporarily lodged there.

Town opts for euthanasia, West Place resists

The nature of Patty's medical issues, whether they merited euthanasia, and the maximum amount of time dogs are to stay at West Place, are at the center of the recent dispute.

Patrick Cole, West Place's Director of Development and Communications, said the tumors on the dog's belly were ultimately deemed benign, but Tiverton Town Administrator Chris Cotta believes the dog was very sick.

In either case, after Patty was placed in West Place's care, West Place officials said they didn't hear back from the animal officer or the Tiverton Police Department for six days — a day longer than what West Place called "the standard five day hold," and two days before Tiverton's contract with West Place was scheduled to expire.

"We'd been contacting the ACO pretty much every day for five days reminding them that their contract with us is ending on July 1, but we got no word and no response," said Cole. On the sixth day, he said, Black arrived unannounced to take the dog, and mentioned that it would be euthanized.

While the town did decide to seek euthanasia, Cotta acknowledged Tuesday morning, he said it is not true that Tiverton had only a five-day limit to retrieve the dog.

Instead, Cotta said Black took Patty away only after West Place's attorney sent the town a demand e-mail ordering that the animal officer do so.

Under Cotta's reading of West Place's former contract with the town, "we rent six cages a year for 365 days a year. There's nowhere in our contract that says we can only keep them there for five days."

If the sanctuary wanted to keep the dog, Cotta said, "all they had to do was ask."

Cole said he was shocked to learn from Black that the town planned to euthanize the dog. But Cotta said it was obvious that the dog was sick, and putting the dog to sleep, while not necessarily popular with all animal lovers, was the right call:

"From our standpoint, it was very ill," he said. "I know it's not popular, but it was in the best interest of the town. By law the town has every right to euthanize the dog for humane purposes."

From Tiverton, to Warren, back to Tiverton and on to Middletown

After retrieving Patty, Cotta said Black transported the dog to the Warren Animal Hospital to be euthanized. But once there, Cole said without naming the hospital, veterinarians "took a look at Patty and said that they thought the tumors were benign, but further testing needs to be done, and said that she wasn’t a candidate for euthanasia.

That's when the town relinquished ownership to the animal hospital, Cole said.

After gaining legal ownership of the dog, the animal hospital transferred Patty back to West Place, where she stayed until the Potter League was able to make room for her last week. She is currently undergoing medical care and after that, will be put up for adoption.

While Cole is glad that Patty was spared, he said the town's decision to seek euthanasia is troubling, and helped convince him that the sanctuary's decision not to seek a contract renewal with the Town of Tiverton was the right call.

"They were not willing to invest any time or money in her beyond the payment for euthanasia," he said.

Cotta, meanwhile, stands by the town's decision, as unpopular as it might be with the public, and feels blindsided by West Place's actions.

"The work that they do over there is a godsend, but we were just kind of forced to deal with this" situation, which he called unnecessary. Again, he reiterated, "all they had to do" was ask to keep Patty.

On Monday evening, the Tiverton Town Council voted to contract future kennel services to the Potter League for Animals, where Patty now resides, for $22,000 per year.

— With reports by Paige Shapiro


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